M. Nedelcu

National University of Theatre and Film I.L.Caragiale Bucharest (ROMANIA)
This paper presents an ongoing project aiming to make available cultural collections that currently have limited public exposure or that are no longer available to a large audience, anywhere and anytime.

Romania in recent years has witnessed a steady decrease in the number of visitors to museums or cultural exhibitions, which at first appears paradoxical especially since the number of local museums has grown steadily over the same period. At the same time, the quality and performance of the Internet connections throughout Romania has also increased steadily – in terms of connection speed, Romania ranks fourth out of 196 countries at download (Internet Net Index, Dec. 2014). More importantly, this trend overlaps with a significant increase in sales of smartphones and tablets in Romania, the latter almost doubling every year to one million units sold in 2014.

The aim of the project is to make the collections, exhibitions or museums available virtually through an open, on-line platform for broad, unrestricted access. The collections will be organized as virtual museums which can be visited by means of virtual reality techniques. This approach offers a personal, immersive and interactive experience. This allows viewers to explore the exhibition space as if they are there; the viewers can choose both the subject to examine as well as the preferred method to examine the exhibits, for instance by watching stereoscopic images or video, or by interacting with 3D objects in the virtual exhibition hall. Furthermore, this approach integrates media as diverse as photography, drawings, video, interactive 3D objects and spaces with text and audio explanations.

The categories of collections we are currently considering as a priority are: museums that no longer exist and whose special collections are now dispersed, masterpieces which are exceptionally brought together in temporary exhibitions, outstanding collections which are difficult to access by a wide audience because they are private and not yet organized for large scale visits, exhibitions relevant especially in the space where they were organized, temporary exhibitions.

The project covers several distinct aims:
- to digitize the art collections, which includes the processing, virtualization, and integration of digital assets (a conservative estimate is 1500 exhibition pieces and spaces)
- to document each collection providing a description of objects and spaces, as well as to provide guided paths for their systematic exploration
- to create customized educational packages geared towards specific age, cultural and educational interest groups
- to disseminate the collections through digital cultural-marketing strategies, to create meaningful links between these digital collections and other European museums and exhibitions.

The overarching goal of this project is to increase the visibility and accessibility of cultural collections and to allow museums to rejuvenate themselves using methods and techniques appropriate for a 21st century audience. This will lead to an improvement in the quality of the visitor experience, to a wider access to collections for a larger audience, and to a thorough promotion of cultural heritage. As additional benefits, this project will enhance real visitor attraction, and provide new ways to support informal arts education.